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KubeCon | CloudNativeCon 2023: A Look Back at a Week in Chicago

A recap of our takeaways from KubeCon 2023
November 13, 2023

Back From the Second City

Just landed back from my first KubeCon | CloudNativeCon and it was a blast – Chicago is a perfect spot for a tech meet-up. The city’s got this big personality that really makes a conference feel like something special. As a New Yorker I haven’t spent a lot of time in Chicago but it was awesome exploring the diversity of the different neighborhoods. I'd love to spend more time there. 

Let’s dive into some of the cool stuff and key takeaways from the event.

It’s More Than Just KubeCon

Let me tell you, KubeCon is massive. It’s not just about Kubernetes or CNCF stuff, it’s about the whole tech platform universe. There’s a bit of everything for everyone who’s into the tech scene. A lot of focus on resources for developers that are earlier in their career and opportunities for learning and entry points for open source contribution as well. Really awesome to see.

Government in Tech: More Present Than You Think

One thing that’s got me thinking is the number of government folks at the conference. It was a great reminder that our government is a huge player in tech, even though we don’t bump into it every day in the SaaS world in NYC. We might need to prioritize GovCloud support sometime soon!

What Everyone Was Talking About

The big talks at the conference were all about a few themes that I will break down here below:

Internal Developer Platforms: What Do You Mean?

It seems like everyone has their own take on what an Internal Developer Platform should be. Some are all about making things easy to use and getting quick results. Others are looking at handling lots of users or breaking things down into microservices. The most common answer seems to be that an IDP is a UI layer for devs to interact with environments and other application/service components.

Overall these are the products that align with what we are doing at Coherence,so personally I was very interested in seeing how people are evaluating these solutions and how everyone is marketing themselves. Overall the space is still hard to understand from the POV of a customer, and from what I could see as a category we are still not creating the understanding we need to with our potential users. The default posture is for teams to build an IDP themselves instead of buying off the shelf.

At Coherence, we believe that an IDP:

  • Is different from the UI you use to interact with it, which should be called your “developer portal” and is a subset of your developer platform
  • Should be seen by platform teams as a force multiplier, sitting above infra as code, runtime definitions like k8s/ECS/serverless, and CI/CD configuration like GitHub actions/Harness/CircleCI.
  • Empowers developers, QA testers, product/design/business stakeholders to be more involved in the software development and delivery process
  • Unchains engineers from toil and yak-shaving. 30% or more of engineering time is wasted on infra/ops/environment work in many of the teams we talk to
  • Should help with all phases of the SDLC: development, testing, release management, and observability/”day 2” operations

Some of the most interesting booths at the conference from the space were from: Palantir with their Apollo continuous delivery tool, Backstage/Cortex/Port with their service catalog and developer portal products, with their easy to use app runtime, Humanitec (who sponsored a lot of events), ELOTL with their nodeless Kubernetes option (really excited to see if we can work together with them eventually inside Coherence), Pulumi, and crossplane (which has a new control plane dashboard).

I spent some time with my friend Benji from Shipyard (which focuses on one of the most valuable IDP features, preview environments), who got some great swag for his dog to chew on from some of the other vendors.

Security: Top of Mind

Security was a big deal with three hot topics:

  • Keeping Containers Safe: It's all about protecting those containerized apps.
  • Watching Over Software Supply Chains: Making sure we know what’s going on with the software we use.
  • Scanning Code: Tools that help us check our code are super important.

Some interesting booths in this space were from: Wiz (they gave away custom sneakers which was fun), Ngrok (who seem to be moving towards CloudFlare from a product POV), and Teleport (which looks awesome and overlaps with some of the tools built into Coherence). 

Staying on Top of Things: Observability

Keeping track of how systems are doing and managing incidents when they pop up was another key area. It’s all about catching issues before they cause problems. Notable booths here were from Incident, DataDog (who had a huge presence across the conference including an interesting keynote for a post-mortem on their global outage earlier this year), Sysdig, Uptycs, Honeycomb, and Apollo (the graphql company).

AI: The Cool New Helper

AI was a star of the show, from chatting with Kubernetes to automating the way we handle infrastructure. It's all about smart tools that make life easier. Some interesting offerings here were Kubiyaand Komodor. Also met the team from RunWhen and sounds like a really interesting take on this opportunity.

On this topic, one interesting note was that GitHub’s conference, Universe, is also going on this week in San Francisco. The take-away is that they’ve re-founded the company on AI and are focused on a vision of how they can be a bigger part of the SDLC by integrating copilot into more places and making it both more autonomous and more sophisticated. That’s clearly exciting, and I meet with very few teams that aren’t trying out GitHub AI tools and using them already. However, GitHub’s initial focus on community and collaboration gets lost in the mix here in my view. This opens up some opportunity for companies like graphite to get lower-level and offer repo hosting directly. GitHub needs to be careful not to lose their core utility for things like the best PR review experience.

Shoutouts and Thanks

Big thanks to CNCF and everyone who put this event together. Props to the happy hour hosts like Work-Bench, NEA, Threshold Ventures, and Bain Capital Ventures for the good times.

And the biggest thanks to all of you who took time to chat and learn about what we're up to at Coherence. Can’t wait to keep the conversations going.